Keyboard or Paper? The Journaler's Dilemma

Photo by Paperback Writer

Last week I was pulled into a discussion of Morning Pages with a couple of other writers. One had not found them helpful and wanted to know our thoughts on the matter. This evolved into a conversation about the relative merits of writing by hand or on the keyboard.

This morning as I began writing in my hard-bound paper journal, I began feeling restless. It would be faster to write on the keyboard. I could use cut and paste and ... I began listing all the relative merits and demerits of each form and came up with the following list:

Digital journals are
  • Faster to write
  • Searchable for nuggets of wisdom that flow forth
  • Easily copied into other documents
  • Less likely to be found lying around
  • Password protectable for security
  • Subject to file corruption
  • Potentially inaccessible as technology advances
Handwritten journals are
  • Durable
  • Satisfying to write in
  • Potentially risky places to keep sensitive insights
  • Possibly making use of hand-heart-brain connection in unique way
Ultimately I realized that neither is perfect. There are dozens of purposes for journaling and some are better suited to digital and others to paper. For me, the danger of writing exclusively on the keyboard is that I may evolve it back to yet another resource for projects and lose much of the truly insightful, creative, soul-nurturing power that writing “off-line” holds for me. I write for at least a couple of hours nearly every day, and using the same place and method for journaling is risky.

I’m going to stick with my paper journal as an adventure, because I’m never sure where it will take me, and I’m going to spend more time on journal-type writing on the computer, especially for things I’m uncertain about sharing. It’s easy to password a folder, and easy to delete words after they are written. Short of destroying the volume or tearing out pages, that’s hard to do with a paper journal, and that realization is enough to deter (me) from writing with utter abandon in a bound volume. I'll use loose sheets, perhaps the back of junk mail, for that!

Although the debate about keyboard versus paper was not conclusive during that conversation I mention, conclusions we did agree on incuded:
  • Writing a journal, any journal, is better than not writing a journal.
  • No matter how you do it, journals are a great legacy, for yourself now and future generations later.
  • Sooner or later, keeping a journal will lead to insight, personal growth, and probably healing.
As I searched Creative Commons/Flickr for an illustration for this post, I realized another reason I won't abandon paper journals. I've become hooked on making my own — the physical distraction frees my creative juices — and it's immensely satisfying to write in a volume made by my own hands. In some way, this seems to give additional importance or “honor” to my thoughts and words, and that matters to me. (I could become equally hooked on buying gorgeous volumes.)

Write now: spend (at least) fifteen minutes doing freewriting — the basis of power journaling. Do it by hand, in a paper journal, on scrap paper, whatever; or do it on the computer. It doesn’t matter how you do it. It matters that you do it! If it doesn’t lead you to instant inner wisdom and deep soul healing, don’t fret. If you keep at it, sooner or later it will.


Karen Walker said...

HI Sharon,
Love this. I, too, question whether to use paper or computer for journalling. Faster sometimes wins, but if I'm really struggling with something, there's nothing like the old-fashioned pen and paper for me.
Karen Walker

Ritergal said...

Hi Karen,
We're on the same page here. One of the strongest positives for me is the change of view and posture. I sit at the keyboard more than is good for me already!